ISLAMABAD: A day after the Senate deputy chairman’s visit to the United States was called off after he was denied a visa, another senator revealed on Sunday that his visa application too was turned down without a valid reason.
Hafiz Hamdullah, who like Abdul Ghafoor Haidri also belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl, said he had to wait in a queue for over four hours inside the US Embassy’s consular section before being told he could not be granted a visa. The incident, according to the aggrieved politician, dated back to the last week of October, just days before the US presidential elections.
PML-N, JUI-F rift widens over US visa ‘embarrassment’
“I was not given any reasons. After a four-hour wait, I was simply informed by the visa office that my application could not be entertained,” Senator Hamdullah told The Express Tribune.
The US Embassy did not comment on his case, citing ‘privacy laws.’
“Denying a visa to a senator is an insult to parliament, as well as the country,” Hamdullah said. His revelation came on the heels of the denial of a visa to Senate Deputy Chairman Haidri, who was to lead a Pakistani delegation at the UN-sponsored International Parliament Union in New York. The refusal of visa to the deputy chairman of Senate is being linked to the controversial immigration policy of President Donald Trump.
However, the latest case suggested that the policy of strict vetting of visa applicants from religious parties, particularly JUI-F, was in place under the Obama administration as well.
The JUI-F, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is currently a coalition partner of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party. Fazl’s party is known to have a critical stance on key policies of the US in the region. This could be a possible reason behind denying visas to senior politicians from the party.
The move, however, invited a prompt and strong reaction from Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani. “No delegation, member of Congress or diplomat of the US will be welcomed by the Senate of Pakistan, Senate standing committees and the senators in their official capacity till this issue is resolved,” the Senate chairman said in a strongly worded statement. Rabbani also ordered that no Senate delegation would visit the US, unless its diplomatic mission explained the delay in issuance of a visa to Senator Haidri.
Despite the Senate chairman’s strong condemnation, the government and the Foreign Office kept mum over the controversy. The absence of any official statement also suggests the government is unsure whether the visa denial was due to Trump’s new immigration policy or a mechanism in place during Obama’s term.
US visit called off after Senate deputy chairman denied visa
Although Pakistan is not among the seven Muslim-majority states, whose nationals have been banned from travelling to the US, some Trump administration officials indicated that citizens from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan may face increased vetting in the visa process.
Speaking at his weekly briefing last Thursday, FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria claimed that the new administration in Washington assured that Pakistan was not going to be affected by the immigration policy.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2017.